I've been impressed by the degree to which smartphones are making inroads on the camera business. Sales of digital point-and-shoots are plummeting like nothing we've seen since...well, since film took a nosedive to make way for digital point-and-shoots.
I've also been impressed that Apple has actually gotten me taking pictures with a phone. Granted, not entirely happily, but I never thought it would happen at all. I guess I'm not immune to the trump-all of convenience that's driving the broader public.
But that's not what I'm here to talk about. Guess what the world's leading maker of smartphones is up to now?
Apple wants to make electric cars.
Those who are aware of the "Project Titan" rumors will probably know more about this than I do, but it came as a surprise to me. Evidently there have been signs for some time that Apple wants to get into the car business, and various industry watchers and pundits have been busy speculating.
The interesting part about this are the subset of rumors that claim that Apple wants to build electric cars, but doesn't necessarily want to sell you one.
Rather, the plan is to make cars into an app.
I don't know how it would work exactly...but apparently you'd use your smartphone to reserve a shared car or order it for delivery, use it for what you needed it for, and then drop it off again. Drivers wouldn't own their own cars; they'd just use them as needed. Apple would maintain the fleet and charge the batteries (and the customers too, I'm sure).
I imagine the revolution would start in a place like Portland. Or is that just the influence of Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein?
In any event, don't write them off. Apple doesn't know anything about making cars, but then, as recently as 2008 it kinda looked like GM didn't know all that much about it either. But other people do, and don't forget: "With a market cap of $750 billion," writes Arthur St. Antoine in this month's Automobile, "Apple is worth more than Ford, GM, Daimler, Peugeot, Fiat Chrysler, Renault, and VW combined." And Apple's been furiously (if only semi-secretly) hiring the requisite talent by throwing armloads of dollars around.
One thing we can probably count on: the goal would be to make driving more convenient, and eliminate most of the hassles of individual car ownership.
Could be worth it, for some people.
The history of photography could be written as a march of convenience, too. Tintypes, or ferrotypes, were more convenient than Daguerreotypes; hand cameras were more convenient than stand cameras; folders and TLRs with rollfilm were more convenient than press cameras with sheet film; screwmount rangefinders were more convenient than folders and TLRs, and 35mm film with 36 exposures was more convenient than rollfilm with 12 (give or take); SLRs are more convenient and flexible than rangefinders; point-and-shoots are more convenient and easier to use than SLRs; digital is more convenient than any kind of film; smartphones are more convenient than hauling out the DSLR.
I keep thinking that the way this is going, pretty soon people are going to decide that it's really most convenient just not to take photographs at all.
And at that point, the only people making photographs will once again be a select few diehards making Daguerreotypes. Well, okay, maybe a slightly larger group using view cameras on tripods shooting sheet film.
Anyway, it looks like people who love to hate Apple (you know who you are) are going to have a lot more to happily gripe about pretty soon.
Me, I want my manual stick shift, and I haven't even warmed up to turbochargers yet. And I hate the rubber-band-on-wagon-wheel big wheel / skinny tire look, too. (I might not be a BOGG any more—beardy old grumpy guy—but I still harbor the gene. The development of the automobile could have stopped with the E21 Series 3 as far as I'm concerned.)
Then again, in 1996 I was fully planning on one day being the last of the last of the film holdouts, too.My inspiration, or so I thought, was Eugène Atget, still shooting glass dry plates as late as the 1920s.
We all know how that went.
I do think (and hope) that the world is waiting on a great big paradigm shift away from fossil-fuel-powered cars. It's inevitable; it just depends on how much we're going to hurt ourselves before it happens. And of course, one very big thing remains to be seen: who's going to make make the big money off that change.
Oh, no, actually one very interesting thing remains to be seen before that: what does a car designed by Sir Jony Ive look like?!?
The next decade and a half is going to be interesting.
"Open Mike" is the Sunday editorial page of TOP, which sometimes looks suspiciously like the ordinary everyday pages of TOP. Or the other way around.
Original contents copyright 2015 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved. Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
John Gordon: "Re what a car designed by Sir Jony Ive looks like, Apple hired noted Australian designer Marc Newson last year. Newson did a concept car for Ford in 2009, so that design may be a clue to a future Apple car. Google Marc Newson Ford to find images of it. He is perhaps better known to photographers for his design of the Pentax K-01 and co-design with Ive of a one-off Leica for a charity auction. I bought the K-01 because I loved the way it looks. Very nice camera, though not exactly photographer-friendly."
Bill Tyler: "Apple's late to the game. Check out BMW's DriveNow program."
Oldsweng: "You are probably right about the revolution starting in Portland. The electric car infrastructure is here with charging available across most of the state and the city government has already dealt with car sharing companies like Cars2Go. Apple has a data center in the state because electricity is relatively inexpensive so charging the cars when returned to their base station would be a drop in the bucket. It would just make sense to have pilot project in the Portland area."
Rusty: "A Calgary developer is proposing to build a downtown condo tower with no parking spaces, include a membership in a car share service and a $500 credit for car share with each condo sold. At $75k a parking space they can reduce the cost of the condos which are marketed to Millennials, many of whom are not interested in car ownership."
Bob Blakley: "Thanks for the rant, Mike. :-) One question for you and the readers; the trailer for Artists and Alchemists piqued my interest but I can find no evidence that the full film was ever released—certainly it's not available on Netflix, iTunes, or Amazon. Anyone know if it was finished and if it's available?"
Luke: "The amount of coal-generated electricity my BMW i3 uses is less than the amount needed just to refine enough gasoline to go the same distance, let alone burn it. My skinny low-profile large-diameter tires look really goofy, but the contact patch is the same size as typical smaller, wider tires. It is always in the right gear, with instant torque out the wazoo. It weighs the same as a Miata, but has a lower center of gravity.
"And about that stick-shift myth: a modern, shiftable twin-clutch auto gearbox is far, far more fun than any stick shift. After owning two Caymans, a stick and then a PDK, a stick is horribly frustrating and slow. But then, any multi-speed gearbox seems awfully crude after driving a one-speed that's always in the right gear. Now, move!"